Eight towns in Northern Ireland have won through to the finals of the Britain in Bloom competition – with Hillsborough going one further and battling it out for the title of Champion of Champions.
All eight finalists were visited over the summer by judges from the Royal Horticultural Society, who marked each one for community participation and environmental responsibility as well as horticultural excellence. Each finalist is awarded a gold, silver-gilt, silver or bronze medal with a winner in each category and discretionary awards for achieving excellence in particular fields.
The eight finalists joined 71 other Britain in Bloom competitors at a glittering awards ceremony in Llandudno, North Wales. Randalstown, Co. Antrim, came away the joint winner of the Small Town category, and RHS judges praised the exceptionally high standard of their entry, singling out the 50 planters made from whisky barrels as well as the town’s memorial garden and riverside wildlife viewing platform, complete with fish sculpture made from bedding plants.
Hillsborough, Ulster in Bloom’s Large Village winner, won gold but was pipped at the post by Elswick in Lancashire for the coveted Champion of Champions title. The town embraced this year’s theme of ‘Biodiversity’ with events involving schools, community groups and householders in recycling, composting and encouraging biodiversity with wildflower seed giveaways and windowbox making workshops.
Derry City, winner of the Ulster in Bloom 2017 City Award, also won gold, as did Donaghmore, a finalist for the first time this year in the Village category. Four other towns in Ireland came away with silver gilt medals: Newcastle, Co Down; Cullybackey, Co. Antrim; Belfast and Ballymena.
“The In Bloom regional and national competitions recognise real achievement and untiring commitment from councils and communities making villages, towns and cities wonderful places to live, work and visit,” said Ulster in Bloom co-ordinator Mark Maher.